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Was Paul a Jew?

A new generation of scholars argues that the apostle long considered the progenitor of anti-Semitism never left his religion

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The apostle’s many faces (Clockwise from top left: Rembrandt; statue from church in the Dolomites; Valentin de Boulogne or Nicolas Tournier; statue from Cathedral Notre Dame in Amiens; Greek mosaic; Weckmann; El Greco; statue from 16th century Austrian altar)

Jews don’t like the apostle Paul. Jesus they can live with; he was a good-hearted rebbe whose words were twisted to say things he didn’t mean. But Paul was the twister, and can’t be forgiven. “Jesus, yes; Paul, never!” as one Jewish biographer of Paul puts it. As a zealous convert who equated the Torah with death, Paul is deemed the father of anti-Judaism (the theological critique of Judaism as a religion), the grandfather of anti-Semitism (the hatred of Jews as people), and the inventor of the theology of the Cross (an excuse for many massacres of Jews). Even Friedrich Nietzsche, no friend of the Jews, said Paul “falsified the history of Israel so as to make it appear as a prologue to his mission” and was “the genius in hatred, in the standpoint of hatred, and in the relentless logic of hatred.”

Me, I came late to the Jewish dislike of Paul. I loved the Paul I read in college, the one who taught St. Augustine and Martin Luther and Pascal and Kierkegaard how to gaze ruefully into their divided selves. This was the Paul who wrote, like a Freudian neurotic, “For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” I was well into my 30s when I discovered the unpalatable Paul. One night over maybe a third glass of wine, I proposed a book about Paul to an editor friend. My Paul would be a precursor to modern assimilationist Jews—embarrassed by Judaism, dismissive of his yeshivish education, fiendishly good at reading texts against themselves, a little too eager to please the goyim. My friend laughed at what he took to be my stab at provocativeness. “Judith,” he said gently, “you can’t defend Paul as a Jew.”

But now it seems that you can. Just as historians studying Jesus have uncovered a more Jewish version over the past 50 years or so by trying to understand him as a creature of his own place and time (first-century Palestine in the grip of apocalyptic fever), so a new generation of Pauline revisionists have discovered a more Jewish Paul, a product of the same place and time. Paul Was Not a Christian is the title of a book published this fall; what he was—and never stopped being—according to New Testament scholar Pamela Eisenbaum and the revisionists she echoes was a law-abiding Jew. He never converted to Christianity, because no such religion existed in his day. (Paul came along shortly after Jesus died.) All Paul did was switch his affiliation from one Jewish denomination to another, from Pharisaism to Jesus-ism. (Some other recent works of Paul revisionism include Reinventing Paul by John G. Gager, What Paul Meant by Garry Wills, and Paul Among the People by Sarah Ruden, which is coming out in February.)

Paul didn’t nullify Jewish law, nor did he, as Luther would claim later, place grace above works (that is, to paraphrase crudely, the acceptance of Jesus over the performance of mitzvot), or justification by faith above justification by law (being seen as righteous by God by virtue of your belief, rather than by virtue of your good deeds). Or rather, Paul did do those things—a less Lutheran version of them, anyway—but he didn’t mean for the whole world to do them, too. He attacked Jewish law only in the context of a very narrow debate raging in the earliest decades of the Jesus movement. Some Jewish Jesus-movement activists said that their pagan acolytes had to convert to Judaism before they could join the movement. Paul disagreed in the strongest possible terms (he did everything in the strongest possible terms). He maintained that these gentiles had to follow only the pre-rabbinic equivalent of the Noahide laws—the seven edicts against idolatry, adultery, etc., that all non-Jews are expected to follow. After hearing Jesus’ call—the first and still greatest revisionist, Krister Stendahl, insists that Paul experienced a call, in the manner of a Protestant minister, not a conversion—Paul took it upon himself to roam Asia Minor and preach the gospel to gentiles, and he so opposed their becoming Torah Jews that he devoted most of his letters to assaulting all the other evangelists who thought they should. These, one deduces, had been following him from city to city and telling his congregants that he was wrong about Judaism, which naturally enraged him.

If all this is true, it follows that when Paul condemns Jews, he is aiming his barbs at my meddling fellow Jewish missionaries of Christ, not the Jews, a people I harshly reject. And when he speaks of Judaism having been superseded, he means Judaism as a lifestyle to be aspired to by pagans, not Judaism as practiced by Jews. (In Acts, Jews do persecute Paul for preaching the gospel. But Acts doesn’t count as a source for Paul, since the man who probably wrote it, Luke, came along nearly half a century after him, by which point the Jesus movement was busily suppressing its Jewish roots.)

If Paul thought he was a Jew, why did he fight the conversion of the gentiles? It wasn’t just that making Greeks and Romans adopt the demanding Jewish lifestyle made his evangelizing harder, though it did. It was that Paul had a unique theory about Jesus and what he meant to gentiles. If you’d been able to ask the revisionist Paul what he thought, he’d have said something like this: When Judgment comes (and Paul thinks it’s coming any day now), God will still redeem Jews who have obeyed his commandments. What Jesus has changed is God’s plans for the non-Jews. No longer will they be barred from the Kingdom to Come on account of their sins—their promiscuity and idolatry and so on. God sent them Jesus and he died for their sins and now they, too, can be saved, as long as they accept him and live good, clean Christian lives.

Paul is supposed to be the genius who overcame Jewish particularism and invented religious universalism, but the new Paul didn’t do that. He didn’t believe that the Jewish God stopped being Jewish. Nor did he think Jesus superseded God’s covenant with his chosen people. What Jesus mainly did was die for the goyim: “What Torah does for Jews, Jesus does for gentiles,” writes Eisenbaum.

So what are we, as Jews, to make of the Jewish Paul? I instinctively agree that he must have seen himself as a Jew. It belies everything we know about human nature to imagine Paul converting from highly educated Greco-Roman Jew to anti-Jewish Christian who rants about Jewish law like someone encountering it for the first time. But do we have to let him off the hook for anti-Semitism? Was he a Jew whose message was distorted, presumably by the Gospel writers and early church fathers, or was he a demagogue who hurled distortable insults with reprehensible abandon? This is a question that won’t be answered easily. Paul was a difficult writer and a non-systematic thinker, dashing off letters in response to crises in his congregations rather than laying out his ideas in expository fashion. Whether you’re seen as critiquing lovingly from the inside or attacking coldly from the outside depends a lot on your tone, and even the best scholars of first-century Greek don’t agree about Paul’s tone.

One counterintuitive possibility that Jews will have to grapple with is that Paul’s may have been a Jewish gospel—which suggests that maybe it is Jewish to preach to the non-Jews, after all. The Jewish thinker Michael Wyschogrod, for one, thinks it is. In a very brilliant essay about what Paul means to Jews he says that we learn from Paul that “Israel has a responsibility to enable gentiles to obey its God and live in covenant with him.”

My take on the new Paul, though, is that I kind of miss the old one. In my college days I thought Paul’s insight into the paradoxical nature of desire endowed early Christianity with a precocious depth. I thought that when Paul says, in Romans, “I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet,’” he was grasping that what is forbidden is also acutely alive, called into being even as it’s placed out of reach. It would be close to a millennium before the rabbis would indulge in first-person self-revelation like that.

But according to the revisionists, this tormented Paul never existed. Or, if he did, he was no more than a useful fiction for people like Augustine, who needed someone to justify his own conversion and war against sin. For if Paul didn’t repudiate the Law, then Paul can’t be talking about his own difficulties with it. Nowhere other than in Romans does Paul call himself a failed Jew. Indeed, there are passages in which he brags about his excellence as a Pharisee.

So why does he speak in the first person? Revisionists say he’s employing a figure of Greek rhetoric called prosopopeia, which would have been familiar to his contemporaries but invisible to readers not trained in Hellenistic modes of discourse. That is, he’s pretending to be someone he’s not for the sake of argument. He’s imagining his way inside the head of a pagan who is, for the first time, trying to live within the Law, and discovering that under the Law, he’s actually a terrible sinner. How discouraging that would have been for him! How remote he would have felt from God!

The revisionists may be right that Paul was playing a part, but I’m still not convinced that he didn’t also mean what he said. For whether Paul was an early Method actor or a convert repudiating his past as a Jew, his words have the weight of truths wrung from a wayward body: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Christian or Jew, Paul understood that what God had demanded of his people was supremely difficult, and in some ways impossible, to deliver. Coming to terms with Paul as a Jew may also mean admitting that such ambivalence is also part of the Jewish experience.

Judith Shulevitz was the editor of Lingua Franca and the founding culture editor of Slate. She wrote a daily column for Slate and a biweekly column for The New York Times Book Review. Her book, The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, will be published in March by Random House. This article is the first in a series rethinking the lives and legacies of prominent Jews.

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Mychal says:

Dear Judith,

I enjoyed this article on Paul (saul). Though to use topical language – “jesus movement” in an argument on first century Saul fails to recognize his torment to reconcile the profound affection for Jewish thought with his awareness of the person Jesus. Modern language weakens your premise. This Rebbe was not a movement as that phrase is used today, did not create or foment hatred of anyone – nor was Paul Anti-Semitic. His message (revelation)about Jesus and his teaching was a tough choice to consider; was not accepted by many or by His people. He was compelled even charged(as Michael W states)to share it with the world. He did just that. It was contrary to peer reviews and other intellectuals of his day, for which he suffered greatly. Wise minds can disagree which does not equate to Paul´s hatred – of self, of heritage, of Jews, nor can his transition be compared to systemic Anti Semitism writ large. Jesus is a Jew. Simply, Paul’s message on Jesus is very clear: both are and always will be Jews and we (Jew and Non-Jew) must live in covenant with G d. How this is attained is based on profound thought and respect for G d. Anti – blank is not sacred, profound nor transformative. Happy Holidays

betty durso says:

This article is very interesting to me. My hope is that all the world’s religions will come to see their basic similarity. None would disagree with the law of Moses through the ten commandments (hard or almost impossible for us to keep). That would be the outward path of living a good life. Paul was well schooled in this law. However, when Jesus the Christ took over his life on “the road to Damascus” (this like much in scripture seems to me to be allegorical) he turned from seeking to lead an exemplary life according to the old law to a life of the spirit (I imagine a more meditative path along the lines of the Essenes). Jesus represents a Christ consciousness beyond our normal everyday consciousness, which we can all seek (Jew or Greek, pagan or whatever.) I think that’s what is meant by judgment day or apocalypse–the time when this higher consciousness dawns on on each person individually. It was so powerful in Paul’s life that he was impelled to his prodigious work, which was a continuation of Jesus’ effort to reform Judaism from the worldly religion of some Pharisees to a more spiritual path (some would surely call it unworldly) leading to “the Kingdom of God.” Hindus would call it samadhi, Buddhists nirvana, I don’t know what Muslims might call it, but their poets seem to have written from that consciousness.

Thank you for digging so deeply into Paul’s thinking. May it help to uplift the interdenominational conversation.

Judith, are you related to Uri Shulevitz?

Stelios says:

Dear Judy,

Whatever Paul may have meant in his writings, the message that he conveyed was by no means uniformly hostile to Jews. Here is an instance where his words were used to save Jewish lives. In March 1943, as the Germans were getting ready to deport the Jews of Greece, Archbishop Damaskinos, the titular head of the Greek Orthodox church,strenuously opposed the deportations in a series of memoranda to the German occupation authorities and the Greek quisling government. In all these documents Damaskinos quoted Paul, the founder of the Greek church: “There are no Jews and no Greeks, no men and no women, all are equal in front of the Lord”. Damaskinos then opened to the Jews the gates of Greek churches and monasteries allowing several of them -alas, too few- to escape the Holocaust. Among them was the father of Shimon Peres, Israel’s current president.

E. Schmitz says:

I was always under the impression that Paul was not Jewish but that is neither here nor there. I feel the constant arguments between Jews and Christians is an exercise in futility and the larger picture is being missed. If anybody will take it upon him self and look into the Edgar Cayse material will see that our very being here on earth, be it Jews, Christ or any religions, falls neatly into place.

Thank you for an excellent and concise article on a difficult subject. Sums up my conclusions about Paul but adds insight on passages I had difficulty interpreting. A piece I’ll gladly share with Christians and others.

George R Honig says:

Paul proclaimed himself to be a pious Jew and a learned Pharisee, but there are good reasons to believe that he was neither of these. For one, in his book “The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity,” the late Hyam Maccoby raised serious questions about Paul’s knowledge of the Hebrew language; he showed that when Paul recited passages from the scriptures, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the bible, was the version he quoted, even when its translation from the Hebrew was not correct. Further, Maccoby showed persuasively that Paul’s form of argumentation was seriously deficient for what would be expected of a trained Pharisee. He also related historical accounts, which showed that according to early Jewish-Christians who were members of the Jerusalem Council following Jesus’ crucifixion, Paul had become a Jewish convert only as an adult, and, moreover, they regarded him as an impostor and a fraud. And finally, Maccoby emphasized that some of Paul’s most notable innovations, including the Eucharist and the conception of Jesus as a deity who descended to earth to suffer and die to redeem mankind, were utterly foreign to Judaism, but were well-established practices of Greek mystery religions and Gnosticism. So when Paul turned his attention to the gentiles, he may well have actually reverted to his earlier Greek roots. My forthcoming novel, “The Alexandria Letter, incorporates these conceptions extensively.

Olivia says:

This is only another proof that Jews created Christianity and suffered for it through the centuries !!! What an irony!!! The first 200 years only Jews were Christians. Of course Paul was a Jew with a new ideas to change Judaism.
Being a Russian Jew and cut off from all Jewish for years, I was always wondering what is the source of antisemitism? Definitely not Jesus Christ though he was used to reinforce it.
Please read Lion Feuchtwanger and Josephus Flavius, particularly his article
“On antisemitism” written before Jesus (!!) He gives 10 reason why.

Robert Ridley says:

Thank you for this well reasoned article. It has spurred me to re-think the role Paul played in the first century under the domination of Rome, and in the context of cultural ferment in Israel. The reference to the Noahide Covenant provisions correlates with my understanding of the intention of the first Jerusalem conference, to guide Jews in reaching out to Gentiles with a message of conciliation and hope. Both Paul and Jesus were clearly identified as Jews living within their cultural norms. Paul took Jewish oaths of consecration. He invariably went first to the synagogue in each town he entered. The line of reasoning of Ms. Shulevitz could provide a bridge for right-thinking Christians and Jews to come together in our dangerous, fragmented world. Every Christian has the duty to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We need each other more than ever today.

jonathan ekman says:

Interesting piece, but it ignores the long tradition of Talmudic vituperation against a magician who was quite properly put to death.

Gerard Gausfain says:

May I quote Wikipedia:
Although Nietzsche has famously been represented as a predecessor to Nazism, he also criticized anti-Semitism, pan-Germanism and, to a lesser extent, nationalism. Thus, he broke with his editor in 1886 because of opposition to his anti-Semitic stances, and his rupture with Richard Wagner, expressed in The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche Contra Wagner (both written in 1888), had much to do with Wagner’s endorsement of pan-Germanism and anti-Semitism — and also of his rallying to Christianity. In a March 29, 1887 letter to Theodor Fritsch, he mocked anti-Semitics, Fritsch, Eugen Dühring, Wagner, Ebrard , Wahrmund, and the leading advocate of pan-Germanism, Paul de Lagarde, who would become, along with Wagner and Houston Chamberlain, main official influences of Nazism [3]. This 1887 letter to Fritsch ended by: “— And finally, how do you think I feel when the name Zarathustra is mouthed by anti-Semites?
So may I ask you from where did you take “Even Friedrich Nietzsche, no friend of the Jews”?

Jack Hansen says:

A very thoughtful, provocative article. I am considering coverting to Judaism. I’m still a bit conflicted about leaving Christianity. The notion that Jesus died for the gentiles and that that was the thrust of Paul’s apostalate is worth consideration. Thanks for the additional resources listed. Romans 9-11 seem to reveal Paul’s own inner conflicct about being Jewish yet desiring his people to accept him and his message about Jesus. Perhaps there is little middle theological ground upon which to stand. Lots to consider in the article. This website is a great discovery.

This is absolutly wonderful. Perhaps if Christians would be willing to learn about and respect the Jewish origins the their religion antisemitism would cease to exist in the Christian community.

Gary Keefner says:

I grew up as a Christian, and was never taught that Paul hated the Jews. I think he hated hypocrites – be they Jewish or Christian. However, I believe he was willing to abandon circumcision and other Jewish observances in order to follow Christ. In Philippians 3:3-7 he stated: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” He loved Christ more than his Judaism or his standing in the Jewish community.

Thanks very much for the article.

yeshivish says:

Good article. You should also read up on the fact that there are those of the opinion that the halakha to fast on 9 Tevet was for Peter who had agreed to go to Rome and change Christianity so much so that it could no longer be confused with Judaism. His hebrew name would then be Shimon haKalpos changed later to Simeon Peter and he is the hero in Toldot Yeshu. Rashi in Avoda Zara includes Paul and John as well. Also, there are those who claim that he is the author of Nishmat that is said on Shabbat.

Regarding George Honig’s post, I have a few corrections to his take on first century Judaism and the versions of the Bible available then. First, there seems to be an assumption that a learned and pious Jew of the time would speak and read Hebrew as his primary (or only) language. What we know about first century Jews is that most of them lived outside of the Land and spoke Greek or some other local dialect native to their location. So, there is no real correlation between piety and language spoken for Jews of that time period. Second, there really was no canon of scripture in Paul’s time. Things were still in flux with regard to the boundaries and versions of the Hebrew scriptures at that point. Yes, there was a center to it (the Torah and the major Prophets and some other books like the Psalms), but there was diversity even in the versions of the books at the center. And the Septuagint that Maccoby says Paul was quoting was not the Septuagint that we posit today. That is because it did not exist yet. There were several different Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures (all made by pious and learned Jews, by the way), but we know very little about what versions were available to Paul. The “Septuagint” is a scholarly reconstruction of the original translation, but that reconstruction is built upon the faulty notion that there was just one original version created all at the same time. We know this is not the case. Uniformity is not found at the originating moments of translation but only after the diversity is eliminated. Furthermore, the notion that many of Paul’s innovations were actually from mystery religions and gnosticism is simply wrong. Jewish apocalyptic writings of the time are quite diverse, but there are a number of them (including Daniel) that have the notion of a heavenly figure coming to redeem Israel as part of God’s plan for human history. It is now standard scholarly opinion that gnosticism did not exist as a social or religious movement until 100 years after Paul. Maccoby’s ideas are outdated and wrong and should not be used without a critical eye.

Thank you for your fine article. I am not Jewish, and as you can probably tell from my choice of words here, not a scholar; not even much educated. But I am a Christian and I love anything I can find on Paul. Thanks again.

Margarita Kent says:

Mrs. Shulevitz:
I truly enjoyed the intellectual gold nuggets, from writer’s such as yourself. Paul inspiration to the early church through his episoles/letters also has profound abilities to engulf the lives of many today. Paul served with such love for the churches and gentiles; it’s my opinion that he was totally committed to complete a good work, which was started through the Holy Spirit. I wish I knew more of the word of God, I love writers that have strong beliefs. What about the full amour of God, could you give me some understanding on this scripture. I’m writing a 10 page on the Ephesian church, and the full amour of God. Thank you for your input.
Margarita Kent

Jake Stoll says:

To paraphrase a section of your article: “God sent them (the Gentiles) Jesus and he died for their sins and now they, too, can be saved, as long as they accept him and live good, clean Christian lives.”

This central concept of Christianity, where Jesus is sacrificed for the sins of others, is completely at odds with Judaism and the Torah. The “Akeidah”, where Abraham is dramatically prevented from killing his son Isaac as an offering on Mt Moriah, is a potent demonstration of the fact that God abhors human sacrifice, as practiced by the pagans, who would, for example, sacrifice their children in a fiery death to Moloch.
If Paul saw the death of Jesus as a sacrifice for the sins of man,he was a million miles away from being a Jew.

Paul and Gospels` authors were Jews and antisemites.They created not universal Christianity but antisemitic Cristianity where Jews are the central enemy.Islam is neutral to the Jews.The Zelot`s type self-hate have been the result of the conquered nation`s split.

I fail to see the concern that Paul was somehow anti-Jewish or fomented anti-Jewish feelings. When I read the Epistles of Paul, I don’t come away thinking I must hate Jews. No, far from it. Jesus Christ was a Jew. To the Jew first, and then the Gentile. It’s God’s way. Anti-Semitic? Not at all.

cjsavvy says:

Paul, anti-Jewish? Hardly! He put Jews in their rightful place, no doubt, but he also made clear to Gentiles where they stood in God’s plan of salvation. The Jew first, then everyone else. He pointed out Gentiles were blessed through Jews. Paul is pro-Jewish to the core.

Garry McGrath says:

Men, Brothers, I never cease to dispare at this unending academic analysis of who REALLY was Jesus, was Peter the first placed appostle or was Paul a this or that or Greekified something.

Those among you who are simply academics will never understand the message and meaning of the things the Lord and the Apostles taught because, as HE said, it is hidden from such minds as yours, and so all such analysis is meaningless and vanity. To HIM that is. But, go on and air your propositions if it furthers your academic standing and therefore income. It’s you business.

Those among you who openly profess Christ should know better than to participate in such discussion, particularly if you consider yourself mature in the faith such that you can consume the meat of it. Do not lend yourselves to having your ears tickled by those who would trample your pearls in the mud and rip you open.

But, as to the discussion at hand, Paul preached exactly what the Lord told him to preach along the road to Damascus. So, in attempting to analyse Paul you are actually trying to analyse Christ, and therefore God, his Father. Paul’s job was to implement the faith as God so required in the context of the imminent demise of Judaism. Yes, that is to say there is no such thing as Judaism according to the Mosic Covenant, now or for the better part of the last two thousand years. It ceased to exist on the day that Titus destroyed the Temple, it’s clergy and the sacrifices, etc, they were responsible to conduct under the Law. Indeed, once an individual could no longer have his name registered by the priest, there was no such thing as a legal (to God) Jew. Thus, all who henceforth would want to maintain a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could only do so through Christ as taught by Paul and the other Apostles, who, as scripture shows reached agreement about what was to be taught.

Saul was a Jew. Paul was neither a Jew nor a gentile. He was born again into the Kingdom of God, as he said, a new creature in this earth but not of it. Yes, he talked to Jews as a Jew to claim them for Christ. And he talked to gentiles as a gentile so they could understand. That is of course until ther were no covenant Jews to be taught, when all were just simly men before God.

Randy Priest says:

Well said Garry,
These aspersions toward the Word come from bright intellects that seem for the most part to have missed Paul’s message entirely. Grace.

Paul’s discourse in Ro 7 succinctly describes the human condition.. only pride drives us to continue trying to approach God on our own merit (law keeping)

It’s the same sin that the serpent proposed in the garden.. to ascend toward ‘godliness’ by virtue of some quality self attained.

The enemy continues relentlessly in prompting us with an illegal use of the Law.. as if to say, “God probably isn’t pleased with you because of this or that shortcoming (sin).. you must try and do better”

or.. “you’re a moral and upright person, you try and generally succeed for the most part in kindness, charity and so on.. God is probably pleased with you..”

Natural and rational thinking.. sure.. but at enmity with God:

Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Eph 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Peter Allan says:

I think that Paul, after his dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus, continued to live as a Jew. There is little to suggest, prior to this, that he held the desparate frustration, despair and antipathy to ‘works of the Law’ that we see in his writings, particularly Galations.

Something happened to him post his conversion, in the years that then elapsed, and it is articulated in Galations particularly. I think he tried, more than anybody, to achieve a peace with God through works of the Law, or ‘works of obedience’ if you like. A performance based relationship with God; the more obedient you are the more blessed you are, the less you perform the more rejection to feel. The endless cycle of effort, failure, sin offering – more effort, failure still, sin offering – in the end proved hopelessly inadequate for Paul.

Christianity is not living as a Jew with a better sin offering in Jesus to cover our inevitable failure. It is something else. Paul found a ‘new song’ and it is this he communicates – a Gospel of Grace and acceptance because of the finished work of the Cross.

I have been in Christianity for 50 years and I have only just understood this.

Jake Stoll says:

Garry McGrath and Randy Priest (ironically, randy priests are a major problem in the Christian clergy) agree between themselves that Jews and Judaism no longer exist. I’m all for freedom of speech, but, with all due respect, this is just plain nonsense, plain unadulterated triumphalism.
Could they please explain what has been going on in synagogues all over the world for the past two thousand years? Who are those funny looking people who cover their heads and pray in Hebrew and follow the practices of the Jews of Biblical times? Obviously, they can’t offer sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem any more because the Gentiles destroyed it, as Garry so kindly points out and there is now a mosque perched on the spot, but the rest of the commandments that can be carried out in the diaspora are followed by these synagogue attendees. What are they if not Jews? Chopped liver?
Have another read of the Bible (the 5 books of Moses) and try to understand what the words “brit olam” (eternal covenant) actually mean.In either language, Hebrew or English, eternal means FOREVER. The Bible speaks many times of the eternal covenant between God and the Children of Israel. The fate of the Jews after the dispersion and exile at the hands of the Gentiles is revealed by Moses in his prophecy in Deuteronomy.
The eventual restoration of the remnant of Israel to their former glory in the holy land at the time of Moshiach is also predicted. Moses talks of the ridicule and scorn that the Jews suffer at the hands of the Gentile nations and the opinions of Garry and Randy are wonderful examples of this prophecy.
The Romans are long gone, so are the empires of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greek Assyrians, Philistines, Spain and the Nazis, yet the Jews are still here, small in number (the remnant) but true to the everlasting Covenant.
Thank you, Garry and Randy, for (unwittingly) vindicating the words of the Hebrew Bible and giving more strength to the Jewish people.

George Honig says:

I only now became aware of your Jan. 10 posting, and had I seen it earlier I would have commented much sooner. Attempting to discredit Maccoby with feeble half truths hardly adds anything useful to the discussion. So, to say that there were pious Jews during Paul’s time who had limited knowledge of Hebrew is true but irrelevant. Yes, for example, Philo, the important Jewish-Alexandrian philosopher and historian indeed is acknowledged to have known little Hebrew, but unlike Paul, Philo never claimed to have been a learned Pharisee, raised in Jerusalem and “brought up at the feet of Gamliel.” Are you suggesting that there were learned Pharisees who lived in Jerusalem in Jesus’ time who were more competent in Greek than in Hebrew? And yes of course there was no canon at that time, but Paul’s letters say what they say; if you look at Galatians 3:13 and compare it with Deut. 21:23, and compare the latter in a modern Christian bible with the Hebrew tenach, Paul’s lack of competence in Hebrew is right there to see. No amount of rumination about different versions of the LXX can erase that. And yes, by far most of what we know about Gnosticism is about the Christian version, and not surprisingly, those writings came from Christians. Now, the connection between Pauline Christianity and the mystery religions might be just a really huge coincidence, but I find it interesting that scholars of the ancient mystery cults are increasingly including Christianity among their lists of mystery religions. Your assertion that the careful, thorough, and insightful writings of Hyam Maccoby are “outdated and wrong” might just be outdated and wrong.

Inanna Baskan says:

Paul said that gentiles need not join the Jewish covenant, “otherwise Christ died in vain”. But why tell Jews to abandon Gd’s eternal covenant with them? Those who stood at Sinai and promised to uphold Torah know that Torah joins us in love to Gd for all generations. Every nation in the world had refused Torah, and Gd gave it to the only people that were left, a bunch of slaves in Egypt; He had to bring them out of Egypt in order to give them this precious gift of Torah.

Being accustomed from infancy to love Torah and to live by Torah find it natural to separate milk and meat, rest on Shabbos, honor our parents, avoid stealing and murder–as natural as tying our shoes, buckling our belts & using a knife & fork. More so, because we love doing it. Every mitzvah we do is one more kiss we are placing on the face of our Beloved (see the Song of Solomon, where Gd and the people are depicted as a young and passionate couple in love). Gd loves all, Jews and gentiles, but variously, appreciating variety.

And Paul is merrely playing the role of a gentile when he says that those Jewish kisses are a curse? But Paul tells the Jewish Christians to abandon these kisses, these mitzvos, or else Christ died in vain.

As for teaching righteousness to the gentiles–most gentiles WERE righteous. And, the Jews already WERE teaching to gentiles. That’s why we are told “There were many in that city who feared Gd.” Those men and women who did not become Jews, but who attended synagogue and learned from the prayers and from the sermons, were known as “Gd-fearers”.

Any gentile today, too, can live by the Seven laws of Noah. Try googling Noachide or Noachides to see the Seven Laws. If you are doing them, Gd counts you as righteous. You HAVE a portion in the next world, and you have it without being baptized or believing any theology.

Inanna Baskan says:

Well said, George Honig, especially the most recent post.

I can’t read this, you don’t know what you are talking about. Christianity began with the church of Acts, it clearly says they were first called Christians in that time.. Luke did not come along after Paul, Luke was with Paul in 2 Tim 4:11 and Col 4:14…
Christianity NEVER hid it’s HEBREW roots; the only attacks against the Pharisee were because they followed vain tradition and ritual and not the word of GOD. The Christian “Old Testament” is the Hebrew Tanakh. JESUS CHRIST taught directly from the Torah and fulfilled the prophecies written by David, Daniel, and the prophets of the Messiah. The Christian new testament constantly quotes and teaches directly from Hebrew scripture, to say that Christianity does not know it’s roots are in Abraham, Isaac, and Israel shows your pure ignorance. I couldn’t even finish reading this article because of the lack of Truth or knowledge of scripture. In Pslams and in the Prophets (HEBRAIC SCRIPTURES) GOD talks about making a people who were formerly not a people. GOD talks about all being equal under HIM, Israel and foreigners. The problem with the Jews that CHRIST denounced was that they did not truly follow GOD, they made their own laws that were not written by Moses and the Prophets, that were not commanded by GOD.
It is the same GOD, never claimed any different. There is only one GOD, that is the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. The law was not able to purify anyone, look at the history of Israel. When Moses died he left blessings and curses, GOD knew the people would not obey; GOD knew Israel would fall away. The law can not save, only Jesus the Messiah who shed His blood as our high priest can sanctify us eternally. Where rams blood was temporary, GOD gave a perfect sacrifice that is eternal for those who accept HIM. Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, GOD chose HIS people who would receive HIS own son Yahshua. JESUS is the only way. There is one GOD, the GOD who raised the Hebrews and then the gentiles

Jake Stoll says:

It seems that this thread has turned into the usual “my religion is better than yours” argument that we are all taught to avoid.
As Innana reminds us, Torah says both Jews and righteous gentiles will have a portion in the world to come. With apologies to Judith, let’s all just get on with the job of trying to be good people.

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Superj says:

Wow you are way off. Try reading Pauls writings again.

This article is preposterous

At the beginning, it says: “Jesus they can live with; he was a good-hearted rebbe whose words were twisted to say things he didn’t mean. But Paul was the twister, and can’t be forgiven.”
Only someone who doesn’t know a thing about Paul or the Apostles could seriously say that. So, what? Paul, who had just been one of the prime persecutors of Christians, suddenly came along and said Jesus said all sorts of things that completely contradict his actual teachings, and the disciples just accepted what he was saying? That idea makes absolutely no sense

The next few paragraphs are just baseless assertion after baseless assertion, the author doesn’t actually give any evidence for what she’s saying.

And makes a huge error when she says: “But Acts doesn’t count as a source for Paul, since the man who probably wrote it, Luke, came along nearly half a century after him…”. What is she talking about? Luke was one of Paul’s companions. Luke wrote about being with Paul in Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, and 27:1-28:16, and Paul wrote about being with Luke in Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 1:24.

The author obviously has no real knowledge of the subject matter.

    WorksnFaith says:

    This to the first response to the writer of this article and to all those who thinks she is off base. Stop drinking the cool-aide. Look outside your religious box and do your home work!  Start by listening to people who disagree with what you’ve been taught.  It is from those who disagree with you who might shed light on the truth you think you have. Read what they question and check into it yourself.  Don’t just read Orthodox Scholars read the points from non-orthodox scholars.  You cannot know the truth without understanding the full picture–closing the issue by calling someone a heretic is not the solution.  It is hard to imagine that the NT is not inerrant, but it is not inerrant. Luke did not write Acts.  Acts was anonymously written as were all the Gospels–and none of them by eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, 1/3 of the NT was anonymously written–this includes 1 ,2, & 3 John.The Catholic church fathers named the Gospels that are in the NT.  In fact, it was the Roman Catholics who decided on the Canonization of the Bible. The Bible, the divinity of Jesus, changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday were all voted on by the councils of men–none of whom knew a dang thing about the God of the Jews except what they learned from Greek speaking Jews–not orthodox, Palestinian Jews, which Jesus and his Apostles represented.   These 4 Gospels were merely 4 of several Gospels being used in different communities at the time–all considered authority in their communities.  All the letters attributed to Paul are not actually written by Paul and interpolations and altering of original writings was common during that period, as was Forgery.   Think.  The Pastorals describe a church that did not exist in Paul’s time.  His churches were mostly small groups meeting in homes or places of business. They were not highly organized.  To burst your bubble further, these churches were often led by women in women’s homes–to Paul the gifts of the spirit were to be utilized in the running of the church–to Paul there was no difference between Jew or Gentile; male or female.  Paul was many things, but he was not misogynist.  It was the Roman Catholic fathers who interpolated negative roles and feelings about women. It is doubtful that Paul was even a Jew by birth. If anything he was a Jewish convert.  He supposedly worked for the high priest, but that would make him a Sadducee rather than a Pharisee. Paul never met Jesus in person, neither did his companion Luke–they were eyewitnesses to nothing Jesus said or did. I doubt Luke even knew any of the Apostles. What authority would Luke have to write any history about the Apostles. Incidentally, according to the NT there were 12 Apostles not 13.  Acts states that Peter was the Apostle to the Gentiles.  In fact, he converted the first Gentile.  Acts was written to smooth the strained relationship between Paul and the Apostles.  There was really no need for Paul to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.  What?  Did God fire Peter from that job?  If you care to study the account of Paul’s conversion in Acts, it is quite different than Paul’s own account in Gal. In fact, Luke differs from Paul in other things concerning Paul than what Paul says himself. Read it and compare!  What Christians do to cover up all the inconsistencies in the NT is claim that everything goes together in one tidy package.  But, the truth is… if read with an open mind and a critical eye… comparing each writing as individual accounts rather than one big, harmonious story everyone on the same page… you can begin to see the truth or at least the point of view of each individual writer.  For instance, it is obvious that James is countering Paul’s anti-law theology. If you look closely at Revelation… it also speaks against Paul.  It talks about people calling themselves Apostles who were not Apostles and Jews who were not Jews.  Read about what Jesus says to the 7 churches–everything they were doing wrong was what Paul taught was OK. Paul speaks very harshly about the Pillars of the church–there was obviously a problem between Paul and James, Peter and John.  There are also outside writings (the ones not included in the NT) that speak about Peter and Paul’s difficulties.  Paul was considered an important leader in the Gnostic circles.  Paul’s teaching lean more toward Gnostic type rationale than Rabbi logic. The bottom line is who are you going to believe–Jesus or Paul?  By the way, Jesus’ name was actually Y’shua. There was no Letter J in the Greek or Hebrew language at that time.
    I may sound like a heretic, but I was an evangelical, Southern Baptist Christian. My eyes were opened when my church split in hatefulness over their dislike of the Pastor.  I eventually left the church in search of the truth, which is not being taught in most of our churches.  If we believe in the same God as the Jews then we better double check everything we believe against what He commands thru Moses and the Prophets.  The only authorized Scriptures at the time of Jesus and Paul was the Hebrew Scriptures. And the Septuagint or Greek translation, which Paul used, was not accurate.  God does test us to determine our commitment to Him. Deuteronomy 13:3.  He does allow the Tares to be among the Wheat. The good and bad are all around us.  It is all about the choices we make. The Bible can enlighten us to the truth, but it must not be treated like an Idol !   K

Jbvalim says:

In the strict sense, Paul never was a jew. He was a descendant of Rachel he was, a benjamite, not a descendant of Leah as are all real jews. That is the reason for his name, after king Saul. He was, by his own definition a hebrew, but had the same atavic diferences and divergences that the descendants of Leah always had againt King David. Nevertheless he had to put himself under submission of a true descendant of David, Jesus, a true Jew, descendant of Leah, the woman that the Almighty, chose to give birth to Judah , the blessed father of all Jews.

stephen says:

this blasphemous article is nonsense. “jesus enable gentiles NOW to enter the kingdom of heaven”? BS! gentiles always went to heaven. gentiles have existed for 30 million years, much longer than the jews who are only 3000 years old. did 28 milllion years worth of gentiles just go to hell because jesus hadn’t told them about the “jewish” god yet? no. the god of the jews remained JEWISH? god is not jewish. that is blasphemy. if god was jewish, then he would worship the devil, as jews do! god has always existed, while the jews are a very young race. please don’t tell me jesus stood up for the bblasphemous perfidious jews who killed him. what did jesus have to say about the jews. just look” jesus told the jews” “oh ye sepeants, ye generation of vipers. how can ye escape teh damnation of hell?” or: as he told the jew pharisee: “ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. he was a liar and a murderer from the beginning” or: to hte hypocirtical pharisee (jews today are all pharisees) he said “:”ye replace the law of god by cfircumventing it with your fallacious reasoning tricks (jesus spoke against the tradition of the elders, which was then the talmud) one read of the talmud reveals that the jews are god’s chosen people, but the key is, is that their god is the devil! the devil chose the jews to be his people! just look at jews how they have massacred 100 million gentiles in bolshevism, the 10 genocides of the old testament. the genocide of jesus and all the prophets, the genocide of the ukrainina holomodor. the genocide of the germans whom they killed 9 million germans after ww2

stephen says:

there are some jews onthe planet who refuse to be teh devil’s chosen people. some jews can get redemption, but the others especislly the rulers in israel who have genocided the palestinians and stole their land, they will be in hell. and all the jews in the west outlawing open speech on the holohoax who want to imprison people for doubting gas chambers which have been forensically disproven time and time again and disrpoving the 6 million number (the world almanac census shows 13 million jews before 1941 and teh same thirteen million jews in 1946, so where is the missing six million? some jews who reject the other jews and their taransgeression of the natureal and unwritten law will be in heaven. most in fact will be in heaven. but the slanderous murders human right voilators and the one’s outlawing discussion or presentation of facts about the holohoax will go to hell, and they will stand before the ral god, not their god, the devil, and they will answer to the god of humans and gentiles for their crimes. what do the jews have to hide about the holohoax? if they have nothing to hide why can’t people in europe bring up evidence which contradicts the holocaust? the truth fears NO investigation. the fact that teh jews outlaw any contrary evidence being discussed is the smoking gun as far as proof that they are lying about it. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

disciple says:

Apostle Paul was not promoting himself, His writing and his life speak for itself.His life was dedicated to his Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ as he himself wrote that he consider everything he learned before as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, but this blog here is more dedicated for lies and sow animosity to the church, WHAT A PITY! you let your faith and your life be a tool for the anti-christ. God bless!

disciple says:

look for the fruit of the spirit,rather than the spirit of discord and dissension for they are making progress now and gaining numbers just like the ISIS. You were painting Apostle Paul a fake. The evil has infiltrated and sowing discord within the brethren.


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Was Paul a Jew?

A new generation of scholars argues that the apostle long considered the progenitor of anti-Semitism never left his religion

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